Effects of regional fast-ice and iceberg distributions on the behaviour of the Mertz Glacier polynya, East Antarctica
Abstract:An observational account of research carried out in July–August 1999 shows that grounded iceberg and related fast-ice distributions, and periodic "break-outs" of fast ice (in winter as well as at other times), have an important impact on the size and behaviour of the Mertz Glacier polynya, East Antarctica, and a smaller polynya to the east. Analysis of satellite and in situ data shows that a semi-constant "stream" of thick broken-out fast ice and other large floes from the east extends westwards from north of the glacier terminus to form a compact barrier to the net west-northwesterly export of ice formed in the polynya. An annual fast-ice promontory to the west further narrows the outlet path. As a result of this and high ice-production rates, the polynya periodically "back-fills", significantly reducing the open-water area present. Intervening "flush-outs" by synoptic storm events clear the polynya region to some extent before it back-fills again. This cycle continued from mid-March until early October in 1999, when a significant change in the regional ice drift occurred. A preliminary comparison with data from 1998 indicates that the timing and magnitude of the processes may vary interannually. Similar morphological features were also observed in 1963 (on a declassified photoreconnaissance satellite image).
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2001-01-01
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